Tuesday, March 11, 2014

By: Gavin Ewbank | Lead Writer

This is the first of a 14-part feature series here at Yanks Beat Blog in which we take a quick look at the 14 other American League teams that the Yankees will be competing against this season.

It's been quite some time since the Houston Astros have been a relevant team in Major League Baseball. For the last handful of years, they've been in the cellar in both the National and American League, in which they enter their second year as a member of.

The Astros will head into this season with the top overall pick in the June draft after finishing with the worst record in the league for the third straight year.

But those top draft picks have been used on nothing. Houston has been stockpiling young talent for years, a lot like the Chicago Cubs have been doing with the crop of young talent that should be ready to take over the next 2-3 years.

The Astros, however, won't be seeing this talent for at least a few more seasons, so for now, they'll be staying at the bottom of the very tough AL West.

Houston surprised a lot of people this past offseason by spending money on free-agents, something they usually don't do.

The Astros brought in Jesse Crain to a one-year deal, adding him to a bullpen that has vastly improved over the group that ranked last in the majors with a 4.92 ERA, and their 29 blown saves tied for the most.

Crain will be joined in the bullpen by other new comers this offseason, including Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Anthony Bass, Darin Downs and Raul Valdes.

Scott Feldman, who put together a solid first half with the Cubs before being traded to the Orioles prior to the trading deadline last season, was signed on a four-year pact. His experience will help provide some veteran leadership to an otherwise young group of starting pitchers.

The trade for Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler kind of flew under-the-radar. Fowler is a guy that's going to get on-base and drew a lot of walks for you at the top of the lineup. He's going to bring speed, and will give you range in center field.

These additions might not end up meaning a lot for the Astros because, like I said, they're building the future around the development of their prospects, and won't be ready to compete until 2016, at the earliest.

It won't take long for you to get a chance to watch the Astros play, as the Yankees will leave from Florida and head to Minute Maid Park to face Houston on Opening Day.


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